YAHOO!!!! Montana’s general big game season is here. Recently, I was asked “…what is the best gun for big game huntin’.” My answer, to paraphrase the late, great Jeff Cooper, is “the best huntin’ gun for huntin’ is the one ya got with ya.” In other words, there is no right or wrong answer, so let’s take a quick look at some common options.
First, caliber. For Montana’s big game populations, most any caliber .270 or larger will suffice. To harvest the larger ungulates like moose and elk, one needs heavier bullets of at least 150 grains, preferably more. Smaller calibers such as the .243s (6MM) and .25 are more than adequate for animals like deer and antelope. I believe that the .22 centerfires are a bit light for big game and personally, I favor the fast magnum .30s, but the “kick” they generate isn’t for new or recoil sensitive hunters. For most purposes, a rifle chambered in one of the 7MM (.280) calibers might be perfect for Montana’s big game. In a long action bolt gun, I recommend the .280 Ackley Improved; this gun can also fire .280 Remington cartridges. For youth or small adults, the 7MM-08 works well. This is a derivative of the .308 Winchester and available in light short action rifles. The 7X57 Mauser is a classic that is very useable even today. There are dozens of bullet styles and weights available for these cartridges and all are easily handloaded making them extremely versatile for hunters. In addition, recoil is very manageable for all.
Now what kind of rifle is best? Again, personal taste is probably the determining factor. I’m a bolt action fanatic and today we have dozens of very safe, very accurate, and very inexpensive bolt guns for entry level, as well as experienced hunters. One can easily find a new scoped bolt rifle package for under $450.00; accuracy at a gre
at price. The only problem is they come in a limited number of calibers. Lever action rifles are a handy option, but again caliber choice is somewhat limited and the rifles are a bit more expensive than the new “entry level” bolt guns.
Semi-auto rifles are becoming more popular in the hunting fields. Traditional styles like the Browning BAR and the Remington 750 are available in a plethora of calibers. Many hunters are opting for the most popular rifles in today’s market, the Modern Sporting Rifle. MSRs such as AR style rifles can be had in many good big game calibers, including the .450 Beowulf and the .338 RCM. The neat thing about most MSRs is their modularity; start with a lower receiver, add a couple of upper receivers of different calibers and one is ready for any game in Montana. And with the proper federal stamp, one can easily mount a suppressor on an MSR.
We could go on forever about what is the “perfect” gun for Montana’s big game, but the only real answer is, “the one ya brung.”
Be safe and good shooting.